Monday, December 28, 2015

The Great Christ Comet


     I'll admit that I am quick to promote this book purely because of how gorgeous the cover is, and how nicely it's all put together. It's a hardcover in a nice dark teal colour, with lovely full-colour photos throughout. In the words of Eric Metaxas (New York Times best-selling author, Bonhoeffer):



"I am simply in awe of this book. An absolutely astonishing triumph."
      Colin R. Nicholl wrote this book to demonstrate that the Star of Bethlehem "could only have been a great comet". He explores the mysteries of astronomy with a biblical base and perspective. He taught at the University of Cambridge and was a professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary before he decided to focus on biblical research.

     --Elise--

Monday, December 21, 2015

Steven James Feature



      For gripping, intense, and thrilling, Steven James is the man to go to. Some time ago I read Pawn, book one of the Patrick Bower Files. And I remember being spellbound. This time around, I started book one of the Jevin Banks series, Placebo, to the same result. I haven't read a book this feverishly in some time.

     Jevin Banks suffers tragedy right out of the first chapter, with the death of his wife and twin sons, but the rest of the story doesn't really start until some time later. He's moved from magician to running his own reality TV series, debunking psychics and certain "research" that seems to always prove to be fraudulent. But with the next case, things don't turn out anywhere near how he intends. Least of all with the debunking.

     Fast-paced, never-ending action, and a pile of conspiracy theories to sift through, James keeps you guessing until the end of the pages, and while he doesn't necessarily end on a glaring cliffhanger, he leaves enough questions unanswered that I am ready to dive into book two. Singularity, which follows the same main character in new, twisting action.

--Elise--

Friday, December 11, 2015

Ted Dekker Feature

Burn
     It has been too long since I read some of Ted Dekker's older novels - some of the ones he wrote in collaboration with other authors, the ones that told thrilling tales with crime, contradiction, conspiracy and danger, and got me reading his words so feverishly to begin with.

     I just finished Burn for the second time. I couldn't remember anything from the first time I read it, but it was gripping, intense, and well worth the second time through.

     Janeal Mikkado has never belonged in her own Gypsy tribe. Shunned. Disrespected. She's anticipating a life outside of this sheltered life she lives when everything goes up in smoke.

     Literally.

     She becomes entangled with a dangerous criminal, a twisted scheme involving a million dollars, and a number of gruesome and cruel deaths that send her on a path she never would have imagined.

Kiss
     Another book of Dekker's that I recently re-read, Kiss, is also a gripping read. Ironically enough, I didn't remember what happened in this one either, and it's about a main character with a bad case of amnesia.

     I love amnesia plots. They allow for conspiracies, and for twists and turns that come as such surprises because absolutely no one knows that they're going to happen - the main character least of all.

    These collab-books by Dekker and Healy have to be some of my favourites from Dekker's bookshelf. I would highly recommend checking out Erin Healy after this, which is what I am certainly going to do. She just came out with her newest book, Hiding Places, and will be next in line to read it.


     Ted Dekker also just came out with A.D. 30 and A.D. 33, an amazing new series that is just raw and ravaging with emotion. I'm always quick to pick up what he puts out, and I was not disappointed this time either. He remains to be my favourite author in Christian Fiction, and I cannot wait to see what he comes up with next.

--Elise--

Monday, December 7, 2015

Abundant Life in Jesus

     If you're looking for a lovely gift for a lovely woman growing with God, this is a gorgeous item with a decorative cover and a really attractive design. It drew my eye on the shelf just because the cover and how the colours and fonts and everything fit together so attractively, and then I finally picked it up to have a look, and to my delight  the contents were just as soothing as the exterior.
     "As you live in this world that is broken, your life does not go untouched by pain and sorrow. Perhaps you think that if you had real faith you wouldn't have to feel sad. But your tears do not reflect a lack of faith. Tears are a tool I use to bring healing in your life." 
     Each daily writing is written from the perspective of God, speaking to you in an intimate and personal way, with related scripture to start off and a prayer written at the end of each day. Guthrie captivates personal reflection and intimacy with God in a very relatable way, and her writing style is so, so comforting.

For more information on Abundant Life in Jesus: Devotions for Every Day of the Year  by Nancy Guthrie visit our website here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Lunch with Lewis

     In the middle of reading Mere Christianity, I was inspired to do a C.S. Lewis feature here, as seen on page 10 of our Christmas Gift Guide. We have a whole section of books dedicated to the writings of C.S. Lewis and the Inklings, and I'd like to present them to you here:

Bedeviled: Lewis, Tolkien and the Shadow of Evil by Colin Duriez

Explore the literature and thought of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and other members of the Inklings circle in regards to evil and spiritual warfare, focusing on wartime.
"Those looking for contemporary insights into the source and problem of evil need look no further than Bedeviled." -Bruce L. Edwards, author of Not a Tame Lion.


For more information visit our website here.

75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know by Terry Glaspey

Discover the stories behind seventy-five of the greatest masterpieces of all time and gain deeper perspectives about the human condition, the Christian story, and your own spiritual life. Complete with a wide array of full-colour photos and illustrations, and sidebards with recommended reading, viewing, or listening options in each chapter. An exceptional gift book.

For more information visit our website here.

If I Had Lunch With C.S. Lewis by Alister McGrath

What if you could ask C.S. Lewis his thoughts on some of the most difficult questions of life? Best-selling author, prominent academic, and sought-after speaker, Dr. McGrath sees C.S. Lewis as the perfect conversation companion for the persistent meaning-of-life questions we want answered.


For more information visit our website here.

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte

This engrossing true story explores for the first time how Tolkien and Lewis used the cataclysm of the Great War to illuminate the human condition; to insist that grace can overcome human frailty and even the darkest powers set against us.



For more information visit our website here.








The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis 

This deluxe paperback set includes all seven titles in The Chronicles of Narnia with full colour illustrations and cover art by Pauline Baynes from the original books first published in the UK.



For more information visit our website here.


The Fellowship: the Literary Lives of the Inklings
by Carol & Philip Zaleski

The first complete rendering of the Inklings' lives and words: an account of the ideas, affections, and vexations that drove the group's most significant members. A thoughtful gift for anyone with a particular enthusiasm for C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.



For all of your C.S. Lewis needs, this is the place to be this season!

Monday, November 23, 2015

New Titles

     I would like to go on a little bit of a different vibe here and introduce you to some biographies and/or life stories that are new on the shelves here. I haven't actually read any of them, which is not my style, I know. I don't like to recommend a book unless I've read it personally. But I can vouch for my co-workers, and they speak very highly of these here, advertised in our Christmas Gift Guide this season! Have a look.

When God Doesn't Fix It, Laura Story

     Worship leader and recording artist Laura Story was faced with her worst fear - her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her story stresses God may not fix everything. In fact, your situation might never change or get better. But you can get better regardless of your situation.

More information here.


God & Churchill, Jonathan Sandys

     The remarkable story of how one man, armed with belief in his divine destiny, embarked on a course to save Christian civilization when Adolf Hitler and the forces of evil stood opposed. It traces the personal, political, and spiritual path of one of history's greatest leaders and offers hope for our own violent and troubled times.

More information here.



My Exodus, Alan Chambers

     In sharing his own story of being a commited believer who struggled with same sex attraction early in his life, author, husband, and father Alan Chambers will help you understand the issues from the inside. This is a book for everyone who wants to be welcoming and loving to all people without compromising their faith or their biblical theology.

More information here.


     If you need inspiration, or information, or something to encourage you specifically, these could be for you. I can't tell you what you'd enjoy personally, but hopefully this helps you determine that for yourself.

--Elise--

Monday, November 16, 2015

A.D. 33

     This is a book that robs me of breath, captivates me, mind, heart and soul, and continues to draw my thoughts days after I've finished reading. It's the kind of book that stays with me, for better I hope, and in some ways, it gives me courage.

     A.D. 33 follows Ted Dekker's last book, A.D. 30 - the story of Maviah, Queen of Desert Outcasts and desolate daughter of the overthrown sheikh of Dumah. In the previous book, her desperate search for help and strength took her to kings - to Aretas in Petra, and to Herod in Rome. But A.D 33 begins when she has found strength in her own people - in the Bedouin tribes of the desert that desire to overthrow the Thamud ravaging their capital.

     The Thamud, who hold Maviah's lover, Judah, and her father, sheikh Rami, in the dungeons of her homeland. Like criminals.

     But this book is as much about Maviah as it is about Yeshua. If not more so. This Yeshua, this prophet, this zealot, this god - he teaches a Way so foreign to the tribes of the desert. He teaches a Way so different from an eye for an eye. And Maviah draws power from this man's teachings. Together with Saba, she journeys back and forth from the desert to Jerusalem, to Bethany, where she might find grace and strength and saving in this man of Nazareth. He is the Way, and both Maviah and Saba long to follow him, and to trust him.

    Dekker portrays Yeshua in a beautiful, breathtaking way that leaves me wanting...more. I want to know more. I want to read more. I want to see more. And so I turn to His word.

     And what better effect could a writer hope to establish in his readers?

For more information on A.D. 33 by Ted Dekker, visit our website here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bathsheba

    Angela Hunt comes at the story of David and Bathsheba from a perspective that is difficult to consider and even harder to come to terms with.

     And she does so beautifully, with engaging passion.

     Bathsheba's character is stunning, enticing, engaging, and everything I could have hoped for. Hunt follows the story line from the Bible, and then she elaborates on ideas and assumptions and vague hints. Because, just like with her rendition of Esther, there are very few details given on these characters' intimate lives - what it was like for them at the time. The bony, skeletal structure of the story is there, but Hunt has to imagine a lot of the rest.

     And what an imagination she has.

     She starts with Bathsheba, young and pure, a beautiful young woman with a beautiful future ahead of her, and she jumps back and forth between her point of view and the point of view of Nathan the prophet. Both tied together from the start, their lives intersecting here and there. King David is not really introduced at all until about halfway through the book.

     What really gets me about this Dangerous Beauty series is the raw emotion within. Hunt goes to such lengths to identify and describe the emotions and mental states of these characters. The series itself doesn't follow any particular order, but rather a theme: the power, and especially the danger, in the beauty of a woman. Not a power to be used as a weapon - though some might choose to do so - and not a danger to be seen as a curse - though some might have no other perspective.

     Hunt's writing appeal lies not in what happened - the Bible covers as much - but in how it could have happened. The "what if?" to the unanswered questions; the hidden details. And she has a gripping perspective and a raw emotional grasp on these particular stories. She can drive a reader to want to read the Bible more, even more in-depth - that is her intention, and I know that she succeeded with me.

For more information on Bathsheba by Angela Hunt, visit our website here.

Monday, November 2, 2015

New Titles

     There are so many good things just flooding into the store, I feel the need to share! From some particularly excellent authors, we're getting some sequels and series finales, and some more standalone novels. Now, I am still biased towards fiction in particular, so that is my focus. But not to worry. Non-fiction is still making a rise in the bookshelves of my mind. More on that at another time.

     For this post I would like to feature a few New Arrivals. Yes, in Fiction. In Historical Fiction, if you want to get really precise.




     This one here is eagerly awaited; Lynn Austin's conclusion to The Restoration Chronicles. If you're into historical Christian fiction, this is the author for you. It would be a surprise if you hadn't heard of her already.

     "Travel with Nehemia to Jerusalem to rebuild the city's broken walls. Lynn Austin affirms faith in the midst of oppression, and hope that, in spite of appearances, the gracious hand of God is upon those who believe. Her novels continue to set the standard for biblical and historical fiction."
     --Becky







     Now, keeping with this theme, Angela Hunt is back with another novel about another queen. This time, Bathsheba.

 


      I'm right in the middle of this one, and I stand once again amazed. I'll address it more fully once I've finished, with a post of its own. For now, just know that it is worth the time. It is the second book of Hunt's Dangerous Beauty series. Esther was the first, and Hunt is currently working on Delilah. I would consider this a worthwhile read in the meantime.

     Following the story of David and Bathsheba from the Bible, she elaborates with cultural clues and historical hints to make the brief account come alive with character and emotion and terrifying speculation. Angela Hunt surely has a way with her own style of historical fiction.






     And now for a personal favourite of mine, Ted Dekker is one of those authors where I started with one of his books and then I had to read them all. His Circle series has had me hooked from page one.


     A.D.33 is the sequel to A.D.30, following the story of Maviah of Dumah. Outcast. Rejected. Nothing but a woman under the law of men. She is desperately trying to unite her people to fight back against their oppressors; to save her father and the man she loves, held captive by the enemy that overthrew their kingdom. And in the process, she comes face-to-face quite literally with the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

    Though she does not understand who he is at the time.

     Dekker's speculation and portrayal of the time period and the characters therein is spectacular. His depiction of Jesus is breathtaking - awe-striking - and I cannot wait to crack this novel open and devour whatever happens next. I've been desperately awaiting this release since I finished A.D. 30 and I already know that I will not be disappointed.



     I must say, this is just an exciting season for readers of Christian fiction everywhere. You can expect a breathless, full account of Bathsheba and A.D.33 from me in the coming months - there is no way I can help myself, and I won't apologize either. Prepare to be amazed.

     --Elise--

For more information on these books, and many, many more, visit our store website here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Music Feature


Introducing Rend Collective's new album, "As Family We Go", reviewed from the recesses of Rob's mind:


    "Right from the beginning, the first pop/rockish track "Celebrate" sets up the start of a glorious recording of Irish anthems.  Peace, grace and forgiveness are the song themes and the passion of these worship leaders shines through.  This lightly sprinkled folk CD enhances a Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin feel."
     --RN
For more information on "As Family We Go" by Rend Collective, visit our website here.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Troubled Minds



Mental Illness and the Church's Mission, [foreword by Marshall Shelley]

     This is a hard read. It's a good read, but a hard read, because there is so much truth inside that it hurts. It hurts my mind and it pains my heart, with story after story of suffering, as Simpson unveils the agony of life with mental illness and the common responses in the church.

     As much as Troubled Minds is a collection of stories from different people with different illnesses, it is also a compilation of facts; a plea for help, and a desperate cry for change - help and change outside of the mental health care system. As Simpson so graciously points out, the system was not made to do what many people need it to do.

     "[The mental health system] was designed to help people who were going to deteriorate. Now we need a mental health system that facilitates folks who are going to recover."
(Chapter 4, page 81)
     --William Anthony
     Executive Director; Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Boston University
     There are things in the mental health system that have come a long way. Knowledge. Facts. Information. Technology. Medication. Counseling. Naturally, there are also things that still need a lot of work, and other things that may never be fully understood. Diagnosing and treating mental illnesses is a practice saturated with hesitation and theorizing, and within the church it is a practice heavily stigmatized. For many Christians, receiving and/or accepting medication for the ailments of the mind is a moral dilemma, and because mental illness is something majorly kept to oneself, it is not an issue that anyone can bring up confidently in the places where they ought to have the most support.

     What happened to caring for the tired, the hungry, the weak, and the hurting? Where in the name of love were the mentally ill discounted among the suffering? When will families be able to come out in confidence and share their pain with a church body that will not condemn them for it?

     One of the most important things for people struggling with mentally illness is safety. Amidst all the stigma and the sheer volume of misunderstanding, sharing these experiences with the church is not seen as safe, and often times this drives people away. But of all people, should not the church be drawing them in? In support, in love, in prayer?

     Mental illness, while unbelievably common, is still a category so unknown to so many. Amy Simpson does an impeccable job at shedding light on the subject. Anyone looking to care, to understand, or even to know that they are not alone, can gain much from what she has to say.

     "Denying the reality of mental illness has the same effect as denying the reality of other illnesses: it discourages treatment and stands in the way of redemption. It hinders agonized people from crying out their pain, bringing their sickness to Jesus and finding ease for their suffering. It forces sick people and their loved ones to choose between the church and life."

For more information on Troubled Minds by Amy Simpson, visit our website here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Music Feature

A little bit about Lauren Daigle's "How Can It Be", from the studio of Rob's mind:


     "The single "How Can It Be"  playing on the radio immediately envelopes you to soak it in. Her voice and music style are exactly what draw people to secular music.  Fresh new worship/pop sounds with a solid message and vocal similarities to Adelle and Misty Edwards."
     --RN
For more information on "How Can It Be" by Lauren Daigle, visit our website here.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Curse of Crow Hollow

     I'll be honest - the cover is what drew me in again. And the title was just so fitting, I couldn't help but be interested.

     With good reason.

     Not 30 pages in, I decided that I would do a review on this book. I was unsure about the first chapter, but as it got into the story it became what I had hoped for from the cover.

     Curious. Dark. Chilling. Engaging.

     There is a writing style for every emotion and every mood under the sun, and Bill Coffey has managed to capture a very peculiar, very rare atmosphere in a Frank Peretti-Ted Dekker-esque way, while still maintaining a style of narration unique unto himself.

     He introduces his story first as the narrator, welcoming you into town and spilling all of the place's deepest, darkest secrets all at once before he decides to explain more fully what has happened in the area to make everyone act so strangely. So he opens the story with some details about a few teenagers going to a party for the most popular people in the town. It's the place to be. If you're not there, you're not anywhere worth being, and kids take that to heart.

     What starts off as a daughter borrowing her mother's bracelet without permission - with every intention of giving it back, mind you - turns into a case of a lost valuable in a forbidden wood with four terrified teenagers awakening the wrath of a dormant witch.

     Coffey paints a very dark picture with the hard lives of his characters; the sin that they're enveloped in and the generational pain that just keeps coming back around. This witch that they disturb is years bitter as a widow after her husband was killed, and she blames everyone in the town at the bottom of the mountain. They avoid her at all costs - or they're supposed to. It's not hard, with her living as secluded as she does. But with the town kids as they are, daring, curious, and rebellious, even ingrained terror and rumours don't keep them away.

     They awaken the curse, and there is no going back.
   

For more information on The Curse of Crow Hollow by Billy Coffey, visit our website here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Music Feature


Once again welcoming Rob with a few thoughts on Matthew West's CD, "Live Forever":

"We only have 86,400 seconds in a day and I feel this album is a perfect way to spend 2,520 of those seconds!"  -Austin W. on April 28, 2015
      "This is the third CD Matthew has put out where he has people writing letters to him, and through prayer and writing thoughts down, he has developed this stunning album based off of those letters. "Day 1" is on the radio right now; most of the stories have a song.  Also check out his first two story-song CDs, "Into The Light" and "The Story Of Your Life"."
     --RN
For more information on "Live Forever" by Matthew West, visit our website here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Through a Man's Eyes

Through a Man's Eyes: Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn and Craig Gross

     This is an educational read. My non-fiction for the year, as I like to call it, although I have been learning to appreciate non-fiction a little more each month so you may hear more from me yet. But as far as Through a Man's Eyes goes, I would almost say it was riveting - as riveting as non-fiction can get.

     We've all seen or heard of those books that open with a warning. Something along the lines of "Don't read this book, unless...you want to die a dastardly death".

     Or something.

     This book opens with a warning as well. Not quite so foreboding as that, but foreboding in its own way. At the same time, it's a warning that I can - and do - appreciate very much. Well-placed, well-timed, and well-worded:

     "Before we get started we want to ask you to do one thing: make sure you are ready or able to read this book. If you are feeling ultra-vulnerable, very scared, or already resentful at the idea of learning what it means that men are visual...please don't read this book right now. Come back to it another time."
     And they're not being silly or childish. The topic they're approaching is touchy, controversial, and hard to swallow at best, especially with people having their guard up extra high now, or so it seems. I read through it whether I was ready to or not, and I hope I was, because I found it very insightful. Very truthful. And most of all, helpful.

     I won't review it in as much detail because the title is self-explanatory for the most part, but I will say that the lessons therein built my empathy, my understanding, and my self-respecting ideals. Shaunti and Craig do not try tell you how to live, but they do suggest how you might like to live in light of some key truths. They are not trying to force anything down anyone's throat - hence their timely warning - and they are not placing blame on anyone or anything.

     Through a Man's Eyes is meant to be insightful, and entirely at the reader's own discretion. How you take it will depend entirely upon how you see it.

--Elise--

For more information on Through a Man's Eyes by Shaunti Feldhahn and Craig Gross, visit our website here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Music Feature

We've been having some technical difficulties lately, but Book Talk is back up and running! Here we see the Return of Rob with TobyMac’s latest release:
     "A similar vibe to "Eye On It" and a tip of the hat to his former band dc Talk.  “This Is Not a Test” features a song from dc Talk and a number with Toby's Son TruDog.  Capital Kings, MR. Talkbox, NF and Hollyn add to this ear-worm.  Once it’s in your head, you’re addicted to it.  This CD has a Justin Timberlake-Black Eyed Peas-dcTalk flavor.  Check out the  "Feel It" video online below: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=1BJF91NU"
--RN
     We've been listening to it for a few weeks in the store, and even after having it stuck in my head for days, I still enjoy it quite a lot. Great sound and lyrics, quite catchy - TobyMac hasn't failed me yet!

--Elise--

For more information on the CD "This Is Not a Test" by TobyMac, visit our website here; and here for the deluxe edition.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Lady At Willowgrove Hall

[Book 3] of the Whispers on the Moors Series

     The story of Cecily Faire and Nathaniel Stanton is likely the best of Sarah E. Ladd's Whispers on the Moors Series. I enjoyed all three of them to a certain degree, but there was something more to A Lady At Willowgrove Hall. She seemed to pay more attention to the emotions and the characters - Cecily and Nathaniel. That's not to say her characters in her other books suffered any neglect, but Cecily and Nathaniel felt more developed and rounded, and I found it easier to fall into the story with them.

     Cecily starts off on the wrong foot entirely. Her father disowns her and drops her unceremoniously on the doorstep of a ladies' school in the area, never to see her again, separating her in the meantime from her twin sister, Leah. All as a result of a sixteen-year-old infatuation. And shame plagues her, harshly and desperately, over the dishonour she feels she will be forever responsible for.

    Now in a fit of circumstance and unforeseen opportunity, Cecily leaves Rosemere, the ladies' school under the guidance of Mrs. Sterling, to become a companion for the infamous Mrs. Trent of Willowgrove Hall. She feels as though she is assuming some kind of facade; living a lie in a constant state of paranoia, fear, and shame. She was not raised to be a lady's companion. Her class status really begs the question of whether she is even eligible for the position. But it is upon Mrs. Sterling's recommendation that she goes, and she refuses to disappoint.

     Cecily is the most curious mixture of propriety and rebellion, submission and opinion, fearless and fearful. She is so secretive, and yet so intent on being honest. So strong willed, and yet so very fragile. And she hides a tormenting secret. When she meets Nathaniel, he's the image of propriety, dedication, and loyalty. Far too good for her. But to him, she is kind and proper and has every bit of innocence he believes he lacks - far too good for him. He has his own secrets to hide.

     And if they're both too good for each other, then where does that leave them?

--Elise--

For more information on A Lady at Willowgrove Hall by Sarah E. Ladd, visit our website here.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Josiah's Treasure

     Everything seems to be falling into place, finally, after such a long ordeal of messes and hardships. Sarah Whittier seems to possess some manner of fortune at last, albeit shortly following the death of the only man she ever looked to as a sort of father. She inherited his house. His accounts. Everything she needs to make her dream a reality.


     To her credit, Sarah is not a selfish woman. She never wanted Josiah Cady to pass away and leave her with everything, but maybe, for once, it's a blessing in disguise. Maybe things are starting to look up and she can finally lease a space for the art studio she's been longing to open up and run with the help of the immigrant women she has befriended and so desperately longs to help.

     That is, if the sudden appearance of some Daniel Cady claiming to be Josiah's long-lost son doesn't get in the way. But a man bent on revenge will do whatever he wills to get the inheritance he believes he deserves, and a woman with a noble cause and wonderful intentions isn't going to stand in his way if he can help it.

     But can he?

     Nancy Herriman pits two atrociously mismatched characters against one another, destined for anger and hatred , and spins their interactions into something more. Lesson are taught and learned and there is a great deal of hurt to endure while they struggle against each other. How can two people with such opposing desires ever get along?

     As it turns out, it only takes a a touch of danger and a dash of trust to bring them closer together, if only a little. A matter of life and death is enough to put revenge on hold, even if it's only for a little while, and it seems, enough to make one second guess.

     Josiah's Treasure is a curious story, with curious characters that develop quite profoundly throughout. Intriguing enough with the question as to whether or not Sarah will succeed, the addition of ever present danger and battles of wit make for a rather engaging, light read.

--Elise--

For more information on Josiah's Treasure by Nancy Herriman, visit our website here.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Headmistress of Rosemere

[Book Two] of the Whispers on the Moors Series

     The Headmistress of Rosemere is a delightful continuation of The Heiress of Winterwood from the Whispers on the Moors series. In most respects, the two books are separate of one another. You could read either one without the other and not be lacking in any areas of information or lack thereof. While book one focuses on Graham Sterling, book two takes into account William Sterling, a young man of the most troubled disposition. Caught up in gambling and betting on horse races, he has managed to squander his entire fortune and place himself in heavy debt - a fact he tries - and fails - rather desperately to hide from the general public. Appreciating the high value people place on gossip, he really oughtn't be surprised.

     With his funds rapidly waning and his creditors growing increasingly impatient, he finds himself attacked one snowy evening on the road home and he's forced to seek refuge within the halls of Rosemere - a property he leases to the Creightons where they run a school for girls.

     Patience Creighton has since taken on the role of headmistress there, with her father's sudden passing and her brother's mum disappearance. Her mother has fallen into a state of seemingly irreparable grief and there is no one left to take on that mantle. She hurries the unconscious Mr. Sterling into the school late into the night when he's found passed out in the stables, recognized immediately as the infamous William of Eastmore Hall.

     What follows their initial meeting is an odd set of circumstances and a whirlpool of emotions and uncertainties. The development of both Patience and William's characters is both intriguing and suspenseful in its own right, not to mention the added stress from creditors, and the sudden reappearance of her very elusive, very married brother. Undeniably, both Patience and William are pushed together by a set of outward and surrounding circumstances that provide anticipation, worry, frustration, fluffy joy, and pure delight all the way through.

     Sarah Ladd's way of making one feel for the characters is skillful, and her setting and historical accuracy attracts fans of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, namely in reference to Jane Eyre. I had just watched the new movie when I pulled the Whispers on the Moors series off the shelf, and it continued with Charlotte Bronte's setting and atmosphere most satisfactorily.

--Elise--

For more information on the Whispers on the Moors: The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd, visit our website here.

Monday, August 24, 2015

After a Fashion

     Sarcasm, wit, arguments, humour, dog attacks, china projectiles, and a great deal of pretending to be someone you're not for the sake of money and reputation. A gem quite unexpected.

     Honestly, I started reading After a Fashion with low expectations. A fluffy romance. Moderate substance. Jen Turano managed to surprise me quite pleasantly. Her sarcastic wit was truly and unexpectedly refreshing.

    Her main character, Harriet Peabody, is a headstrong hat maker with a no-nonsense, very business-like attitude. Losing her job does not bode well for her, which is something that happens no later than two chapters into the book in a very comical situation involving a dog attack and a self-righteous upper-class woman who loses all form of dignity.

     The entire tale is filled with moments quite like these, some more amusing than others, some more embarrassing, but all equally entertaining. Harriet Peabody is paid a large sum of money to be a business partner to one of the wealthiest men in the country. Her job description includes dressing up and providing intelligent conversation in hopes of securing a business opportunity and increasing her employer's already enormous fortune.

     A simple matter of being herself in order to acquire three thousand dollars she never imagined possible becomes suddenly not so simple the more time she spends in the company of her employer. Their inevitable tumble into a winding romance is a wonderfully intriguing and entertaining series of mishaps and events wrapped in an engaging cast of characters.

     I don't often laugh aloud while reading, but this is one of those books where I simply could not help myself. Harriet Peabody is a sarcastic, headstrong young woman, and her employer, Oliver Addleshaw, is a cocky gentleman with a dangerous sense of curiosity and a perpetual need to do business. Together they make an amusing - albeit suited - pair, with a rocky start and a tumultuous plot-line to revolve around them.

     Giggles and jaw-drops galore.

--Elise--

For more information on After a Fashion by Jen Turano, visit our website here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Heiress of Winterwood

[Book One] of the Whispers on the Moors Series

     The Heiress of Winterwood is an intriguing idea that begins, really, with a very uncustomary proposal. A proposal, first of all, from a woman living in the nineteenth century. And she proposes to a man she has never met.

     We are introduced to Amelia Barrett of Winterwood, and the Sterling family of Eastmore Hall. Amelia is within reach of a very large inheritance as a result of her father's death, with the condition that she must be married before she turns twenty-four, lest the fortune go to someone else. In this case, however, Amelia Barrett's concern is not with the money of her inheritance, but a different matter entirely. Were she to follow with her uncle's plan she would be wed well before her twenty fourth birthday to a man of seemingly ideal character and upbringing. But then of course, there is the matter of the child.

     In the process of her courtship with Edward Littleton, Amelia cares for a pregnant Katherine Sterling. This woman's husband, Graham, is a captain of the navy whom she hasn't seen since shortly after they married. When Katherine dies after giving birth, the child, Lucy, is left in Amelia's care. Amelia promises Katherine just before she dies that she will care for her daughter to her last breath, but when Edward Littleton refuses to allow the child to remain at Winterwood after they marry, her entire future is thrown into disarray. The only way for her to keep her promise to Katherine, and to maintain the funds to do so, is for her to marry Graham Sterling in time to keep her inheritance.

     Never mind that his wife died only months ago, and now as he returns from his duties to meet his daughter for the first time he is proposed marriage by a brazen and headstrong woman he has never encountered before. She presents the proposal as a business arrangement - nothing more, nothing less, with the promise that Graham may go about his life however he pleases so long as she may continue caring for baby Lucy, whom she has come to love as her own child.

    Even if he were to agree to her, how many others will try to stand in her way?

--Elise--

For more information on Whispers on the Moors: The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah E. Ladd, visit our website here.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Grief Observed

     To anyone who has ever suffered a loss: a comfort. To anyone dealing with any stage of grief: a companion. This classic book by C.S. Lewis approaches the loss of a loved one in a way that comforts, listens, hurts, holds, and cries with the reader. In his mind-numbing grief, Lewis chokes out the words to somehow enunciate his agony over the loss of a loved one - the loss of his loved one - even when his emotions rob him of words and the breath to form them.


     In all of his floundering to communicate, what comes across is a beautifully painful account of his journey through grief; the musings of an influential man brought down to the same base level as any other individual. His expression is truly humbling. How often do we look at these famous, shining people as other and out-there and unaffected? Apart from "the rest of us"?

     And how often are we all of a sudden proven so wrong?

     To be able to relate so deeply to someone seemingly so far out of reach has an entirely humbling effect. In the shadow of sorrow and grief over loss, I would hug this book to my chest and read it time and time again, in search of comfort. Sometimes all the comfort we need is someone who listens and understands, and A Grief Observed is akin to that, without the ability of interrupting or claiming that your feelings are not right or valid.

     It is so easy to dismiss someone's pain as lesser and to compare it to our own in a cruel way of diminishing their experience, and in doing so, do exactly the opposite of comfort them. Lewis would not - could not - do anything of the sort.

     A Grief Observed is something like a heartfelt guide through different stages of grief, guaranteed to carry you through, step by step, as the author himself undergoes each.

--Elise--

For more information on A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, visit our website here.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Beyond All Dreams


     In her latest release, Beyond All Dreams (Pub. Jan 2015), Elizabeth Camden details the intriguing lives of Anna O'Brien, a librarian at the Library of Congress in 1897, and Luke Callahan, a struggling congressman very recently demoted to the Committee on Fisheries to his great embarrassment. Introduced separately, the two characters' stories intertwine slowly and then all at once. Camden does a very good job of providing worry and suspense; wondering how things could possibly turn out in light of the messes that everyone seems to slip into.

     The events of the first chapter seem to introduce a complicated plot while simultaneously crushing anyone's hope of learning anything substantial on the subject. Anna O'Brien is approached by the navy, regarding an error she believes to be documented in the country's history, only to be ordered in no uncertain terms to forget about the matter entirely and move on with her life.

     But Anna is a researcher, and even under threat it seems difficult - if not downright impossible - for her to let go.

     It is perhaps their tragic childhood stories that bring Anna and Luke so close to one another when their mutual use of research forces them to align. Their personalities are as different as night and day and their life experiences have taught them such different lessons. Originally they meet each other at such odds, and in Anna's case, this leads her to near-disgust. But that sentiment quickly changes and the trouble then lies with who will be the first to admit it.

     For the sake of clarification, Beyond All Dreams does not focus solely on the relationship of its characters, though that could be considered a very key point. Camden does place heavy emphasis on who her characters are, for themselves and towards each other, and she does go into the emotional state of each, but this book is as much a suspenseful novel about controversy and betrayal as everything else. She adds authenticity with a careful portrayal of the time period and she approaches such questions as peace and war; right and wrong. The controversy that Anna has supposedly uncovered leads to eavesdropping, spies, stalkers, and a mess of justice between her and the truth about her past.

     If nothing else, Camden's investment in her characters make them worth fighting for - or reading for - as the case may be.

--Elise--

For more information on Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden, visit our website here.